• August 21st, 2018

    Last fall, SUWA filed a lawsuit to stop the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from destroying pinyon-juniper woodlands through “chaining” and “bull-hog” projects in an area of Utah’s West Desert called Hamlin Valley. Click here for more information on these types of projects.

    These projects arose out of an analysis that the BLM’s Cedar City field office completed in 2014, which broadly considered how vegetation removal projects would impact public land across an almost 200,000-acre area. The BLM’s analysis did not describe how many of the 200,000 acres would be manipulated, nor where projects would actually occur on the ground. As the analysis stated, the emphasis was “on analyzing the cumulative effects of multiple future activities rather than the direct and indirect effects of a single activity.”

    In seeming direct contradiction of that statement, the BLM started approving and implementing projects without analyzing the direct and indirect effects.

    Hamlin Valley Chaining Project, photo copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA

    The first of these projects was done without public notification. After we realized the BLM was proceeding this way, we immediately contacted them and demanded that they live up to their commitment to perform additional site-specific analysis. When the BLM wouldn’t agree, we filed a lawsuit in federal court arguing that it had a duty under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to analyze and disclose the direct and indirect effects of these projects, which it had failed to do.

    Even though two projects were completed while the case was progressing, we continued litigating, hoping to prevent this type of devastation from occurring through potential future projects.

    And now, after months of back and forth between us and the agency, the BLM has finally backed down and agreed to prepare new site-specific analyses for any additional projects in the greater Hamlin Valley area. With the BLM’s commitment in hand, and made expressly to the court, we agreed to dismiss our lawsuit.

    We hope that this helps the BLM begin to rein in its devastating chaining and other vegetation removal projects. We’ll continue to hold the agency accountable while pushing them to make better informed, more transparent decisions.

    Hamlin Valley Chaining Project, photo copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA

     

    Hamlin Valley Chaining Project, photo copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA

  • August 20th, 2018

    This Wednesday, August 22nd, the “Not-so-Swell” bill proposed by Utah’s Sen. Hatch and Rep. Curtis will receive a hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The Emery County Public Land Management Act, which affects places like Desolation Canyon, Labyrinth Canyon, and the San Rafael Swell, is crammed into a hearing with a massive slate of 13 other bills, and no opposition witness will be called.

    This means the ONLY WAY your congressional members are really going to hear about this bill is if you contact them!

    Muddy Creek proposed wilderness, copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA

    We’ve been working for months to try to improve this bill, but it remains a take-it-or-leave-it proposal. It’s the brainchild of a tiny county political body whose members openly admit their goal is to prevent meaningful wilderness protections for some of Utah’s most spectacular and remote public lands. Just for starters, this bill:

    • Leaves more than 900,000 acres of proposed wilderness out of the running for protection, including much of the iconic Muddy Creek and Labyrinth Canyon areas
    • Seeks to codify an illegal travel plan that we’ve already settled in court
    • Turns federal lands over to the State of Utah
    • Releases a Wilderness Study Area to facilitate a coal mine expansion
    • Fails to protect significant priceless cultural resources in the San Rafael Badlands

    Sen. Hatch is trying to dazzle Congress into thinking this is a good bill. Tell them the truth!

    This is the biggest legislative fight we’ve had in years. The good news is we have many allies in Congress, they just need to hear from you!

    Thank you for taking action.

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  • August 16th, 2018

    President Trump’s Interior Department just released draft management plans revealing their vision for how to manage what’s left of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments as well as the lands that were illegally excised from those monuments. It was only last December that the president unlawfully attacked both of these monuments.

    We expected bad, but these plans are horrible.

    Help us protect Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments by contributing to SUWA today.

    At Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) plan sets the stage for the destruction of a unique landscape that has been protected for more than two decades.

    The BLM’s preferred alternative would open huge swaths of Grand Staircase to new oil and gas leasing, mining, and off-road vehicle damage. And a new report released today from the Department of Interior crows that the lands cut from the original monument by President Trump are “rated high for development potential” of coal reserves.

    The BLM is not shy about its intentions to oversee the destruction of this place.  To quote directly from the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, their preferred alternative would “conserve the least land area for physical, biological, and cultural resources . . . and is the least restrictive to energy and mineral development.”

    Circle Cliffs, copyright James Kay

    Places like the Circle Cliffs region along the Burr Trail and Wolverine Loop Roads and the Vermillion Cliffs east of Kanab are now in the crosshairs and at immediate risk of being irreparably destroyed.

    At Bears Ears, the plan is terrible, prioritizing consumptive uses such as grazing and logging while failing to protect cultural resources and wilderness-quality lands.

    Under these just released plans even the smaller national monuments that
    Trump left behind would be managed in a way that offers less protection
    than they currently enjoy.

    We’ll have more information for you in the coming days, as well as instructions on how you can tell Trump’s Department of Interior what you think of their plans to further decimate Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments.

    With your support, SUWA won’t rest until Trump’s unlawful orders are overturned—and we will do everything in our power to ensure that these terrible plans are never implemented.

    Please contribute to SUWA today.

    Thank you for taking action.

  • July 24th, 2018

    Guided by the Trump administration’s “energy dominance” agenda, on July 16th the Utah Bureau of Land Management (BLM) proposed a massive statewide auction of federal public lands for oil and gas leasing and development. The December 2018 lease sale will be the largest in Utah in more than a decade, and its targets include many wild and culturally-rich redrock landscapes.

    Tell the BLM to stop sacrificing our wilderness-quality public lands for fossil fuel development!

    In this proposal, the BLM intends to offer for lease:

    •    225 parcels totaling 329,826 acres of federal public lands including wilderness-caliber lands in Bitter Creek, Desolation Canyon, Dragon Canyon, Hatch Canyon / Hatch Wash, Labyrinth Canyon, Monument Canyon, Sweetwater Canyon, Tin Cup Mesa, Wolf Point, and the White River area (all proposed for wilderness designation in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act — click here to see map).

    •    Parcels located in greater sage-grouse habitat, adjacent to rivers and streams (including the Green and White rivers), and in or near culturally-rich landscapes including Nine Mile Canyon and the Alkali Ridge Area of Critical Environmental Concern.

    •    159 parcels in the Uinta Basin, the majority of which are located in or near the region found by the Environmental Protection Agency to be in violation of national air quality standards for ozone—a problem largely attributable to the BLM’s authorization of oil and gas exploration and development in that region.

    Click here to demand that the BLM remove these sensitive landscapes from its December lease sale.

    White River. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA

    It gets worse! The BLM also intends to use the environmental analysis prepared for this lease sale to justify its recent issuance of an oil and gas lease located on lands unlawfully removed by President Trump from monument protection in Bears Ears National Monument. The agency issued this lease in early 2018 but suspended that decision following a successful legal challenge brought by SUWA. However, the BLM is now trying to paper over its prior unlawful leasing decision as part of its larger auction of these remarkable lands.

    Finally, and adding insult to injury, the BLM has taken significant steps to limit opportunities for public comment on this massive lease sale. In fact, the public will have no opportunity at all to comment on the agency’s environmental analysis.  Instead, in an attempt to rush this sale through, the BLM is only allowing “scoping” comments during a 15-day period which runs through July 31st.  When the agency’s final decision is released, the window for public protest will be a mere 10 days (reduced from the usual 30).

    Please take a moment to tell the BLM that this massive auction of public lands, and the elimination of the public’s voice, is completely unacceptable.

    Thank you for taking action!

  • July 13th, 2018

    Proposed approval is yet another signal of the Administration’s lack of support for our public lands

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    July 13, 2018

    Contact:
    Stephen Bloch, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, (801) 428-3981

    SALT LAKE CITY, UT – Today, the Trump Administration once again turned its back on protecting our nation’s public lands by supporting the proposed Alton mine expansion, which is dangerously close to Bryce Canyon National Park. If the proposal is approved, it will increase the mine by 3,600 acres– the equivalent of over 2,700 football fields– to access an additional 45-million tons of coal, which is two-million tons of coal each year. The coal strip mine expansion would occur only 10 miles from Bryce Canyon National Park in southern Utah. Among other impacts, it would potentially destroy breeding grounds relied on by the southernmost population of Greater Sage Grouse in North America.

    Suggested approval of this coal mine comes at a time when Utah is moving toward a clean energy economy. Salt Lake City, Moab, Park City and Summit County all committed to 100% clean energy goals and the state’s rooftop solar industry continues to boom. The Trump Administration didn’t consider these factors or the unprecedented amount — over 280,000 public comments–  filed in opposition of the proposal.

    The final environmental impact study from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is forthcoming. There will be a 30 day public comment period following the release of the study.

    The below statement is a reaction from Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, National Parks Conservation Association, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and Sierra Club:

    “The Trump Administration has repeatedly put corporate interests ahead of the American people in issues of public land management, so this is a disappointment but certainly not a surprise. Our organizations remain strongly committed to protecting the climate and the landscape, environment and cultural resources in southern Utah. Some places are simply too special to mine—this is one of them.  The doorstep to Bryce Canyon National Park should be preserved for the benefit of all visitors, rather than turned over to the highest corporate bidder.”

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